Skip to main content

Full text of "Mathura A District Memoir"

See other formats

£|2                                                INDIAN  CASTE.
quite recently, still connected with the forest rather than the fields, being the
wood-cutters, whose business it was to fell timber and transport it by the Gho-
ghra river to Bahrain Ghat and other marts.
In this way the majority of the servile or so-called Siidra castes same into
existence, in order to supply the unproductive classes with food ; and subse-
quently, when population grew and towns were built, their number was vastly
increased by the new trades that sprung up to satisfy the more complex re-
quirements of urban life. Then, too, last of all, and by no means simultane-
ously with the other three, as represented in the legends, the Vaisya order was
produced. For the purpose of facilitating barter and exchange, traders estab-
lished themselves, either on the sea-coasfc, or at places convenient of access for
the inhabitants of two dissimilar tracts of country, and forming a confederation
among themselves would take a collective name, either from the locality which
they occupied, as Ajudliyavusis, Mathuriyas. or Agarwalas, or simply from the
special branch of trade which they pursued, as Sonars, Lohiyas, or Baniyas.
From the facility of acquiring wealth and the civilizing influence of social con-
tact, these merchants would soon form a striking contrast to the simple rural
population who brought their produce for barter, and would receive some vulgar
title indicative of the difference ; hence the name of Mahajans, ' the great people.5
And all such names, having once firmly attached themselves, would be retained,
even when they ceased to be strictly applicable, in consequence of migration
from the original seat^ or change in profession or circumstances.
Up on this theory we come to a clear understanding of the popular feeling about
caste—a feeling which unmistakeably exists in the native mind, though opposed
to dogmatic teaching—that below the Brahman and the Thtikur there are a num-
ber of miscellaneous divisions, but no two well-defined collective groups.   There
is a vague impression that the Yaisya Is properly a tradesman and the Sudra a
servant ; while It Is definitely ruled that the former is the much more respectable
appellation of the two.    Thus a difficulty arises with regard to a family that
Is distinctly neither of Brahman nor Thtikur descent, and from time Immemorial
has been engaged In some specially ignoble trade or exceptionally honourable
service.    The latter aspires to be Included in the higher order, in spite of his
servitude ; while the former, though a trader, is popularly ranked in the same
grade as people who, If they are to be known by any class name at all, are
clearly  Siidras.    This never occurs in precisely the same way with the two
higher Manava castes, though one or two facts may be quoted which at first
sight seem to tell against such an assertion.   For example, there are a numerous